Match Day 9 will see San Antonio FC hit the road for the first meeting of 2018 with their biggest USL rivals, RGV Toros FC. We turned to Carson Merk (@CarsonAMerk) of Dynamo Theory (@dynamotheory) to get the low down on what’s up in the valley as we get ready for the first of three Texas Derby’s in 2018.
- 1 – (RB90) The biggest bit of off-season news between these two clubs was definitely the addition of Escalante to SAFC. It was an eye-opener for us. In your opinion, what made him expendable by RGV and were you surprised to see him land in San Antonio?
(CM) Well, since the Toros and Houston Dynamo has a hybrid affiliation, it was that he was expendable to the Dynamo. With players like Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis occupying the wings, having another international player as a depth piece there didn’t make a ton of sense. That is no knock on Jose’s skills at all, it was simply a numbers game. As far as joining San Antonio, I wasn’t too surprised. I’ve heard very positive things about the organization and they’ve liked to play on the counter-attack, which Jose thrives in. I am lucky to have a friendship with Jose and his wife Marce, and I’m glad they can raise their son Enzo in a place they love and feel appreciated in.
- 2– It has been a tough start for RGV this year, including no wins and three losses on the road ahead of a midweek road match at Fresno this week. What has been going wrong for them away from HEB Park?
The club has lacked identity at times on the road. They were caught between trying to possess the ball and beating teams on the counter, so instead, they did neither. Against Portland Timbers 2, it was simply a matter of sitting too deep, especially once they got the lead. Playing defensively is fine, but if you give a club loads of possession in your defensive half, bad things will happen. Also, not an excuse, but they battled really poor weather in Colorado Springs and Seattle, which the home teams would be more familiar with.
- 3 – On the flip side, the two best matches of the RGV season were at home this season, drawing the Sacramento Republic and beating Orange County – SAFC couldn’t earn points in either match against those same teams. How is it that RGV was able to have their two best matches of the year against two of the best Western Teams so far this season, and how much should that worry SAFC coming into HEB Park for the first time this season? We should note SAFC is undefeated at the venue, winning their only match there in 2017.
For RGVFC, it’s all about being focused and playing a full 90 minutes. Multiple times this season they’ve led, sometimes by multiple goals, and conceded to either lose or draw. They are a very young team and they should get better in time at closing out those matches. A big boost against Orange County was the loan of Memo Rodriguez and Mac Steeves from the first team. Memz added a dangerous attacking threat from the wing and Steeves was able to show his skill as well. Against SAFC, the Toros will need to play aggressively for the full match. If they do that, they have the talent to beat almost any team.
- 4 – One thing we noticed looking at RGV’s stat sheet is that they’ve given up three penalties so far this year. That’s one every two games. Bad luck or poor decision making in the back? They’ve also conceded 11 goals this season overall. That’s two more than SAFC in one less match played, as they head into that midweek match with Fresno. Is this shaping up to be a down year defensively for RGV?
The penalties were all deserved and poor decisions, primarily by the normally steady Conor Donovan. As far as the overall defense, they’ve tightened things up with their current back line of Manny Padilla, Donovan, Omar Ontiveros, and Kyle Adams. That group and goalkeeper Nico Corti, have clean sheets in back to back matches
- 5 – Let’s talk about HEB Park as a venue for a moment. It has been host to CONCACAF Champions League earlier in 2018 and later this year it will host the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament. Is HEB Park the new destination stadium in Texas, and what’s the fan excitement level for having soccer matches beyond just RGV games?
I would say H-E-B Park has absolutely established itself as a premier destination. It’s a state of the art venue and has impressed everyone I’ve talked to that’s visited it. In relation to fan excitement, there’s a large Mexican presence in the area. When you tell them you can bring Liga MX clubs or other high-level recognizable clubs, there will be a lot of excitement.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about RGV FC.
It’s been nearly a new club in each of its three seasons. There have been three managers in three years and only three players from that first year in 2016. Thankfully, the affiliation has been very beneficial for the Dynamo. Looking at Houston’s roster, there are five players that started with RGVFC before signing with the first team, plus manager Wilmer Cabrera. On the Toros side, President Bert Garcia and owner Alonzo Cantu have done everything they can to create top-notch facilities, player experience, and growth potential for RGVFC. After building an NBA G-League juggernaut in the Vipers, you can expect great things from their soccer venture, too.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – D L D W W, 2018 Road Record 1-2-1
RGV FC – L L W D D, 2018 Home Record 1-3-0
San Antonio FC: 12 points, GF 9, GA 9, 0 GD, 8th in USL West
RGV FC: 7 points, GF 12, GA 13, -1 GD, 14th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the eighth meeting between these teams, and as you might expect with such a close regional rival, this is the most common opponent for SAFC in their history. It has been a tale of two seasons. RGV won three matches in 2016, SAFC won two last year. All-time, RGV still has the edge, taking thirteen points against San Antonio’s seven. SAFC is 2-1-4 against their in-state rivals.
8/29/18 @ RGV
10/13/18 @ SA
San Antonio returned the favor on the 2016 season finale that ended SAFCs playoff hopes that year with a late-season thumping of RGV FC on October 14th, 2017 at Toyota Field by a score of 3-1. Guzman had a brace and leading scorer Billy Forbes added another. Then-RGV-man Escalante was red carded in the match.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (3-3-2) at RGV FC (1-4-3) #RGVvSA
HEB Park, Saturday, May 12th
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
When SAFC meets RGV this Saturday night it will mark the eighth meeting between the two Texas rivals. No one has faced San Antonio more times. And no one has beaten SAFC more than the four times RGV has defeated the Alamo boys. It has been a tale of two seasons between these two teams. In 2016 it was all RGV. They won three out of the four meetings and drew the other. In 2017 it was a complete reversal with SAFC winning two out of three. What’s in store for 2018? We’re about to find out. But it should be exciting as both teams are unbeaten in their last three matches.
San Antonio FC comes into the match especially hot, with their first back to back wins of the season coming in the last two weeks. RGV comes into the match on a short week, having played their fourth straight Wednesday match in a row this week. Adding to SAFC’s advantage this week, the match was on the road for RGV; a 2-2 draw at Fresno. San Antonio should easily be the fresher team having played at home last weekend and having three extra days of rest. And you read that right – this will be RGV’s first Saturday match since way back on April 14th. The USL schedule makers definitely gave RGV a weird start to their season.
The biggest talking point about this match will easily be the return of Jose Escalante to RGV, this time in a San Antonio uniform. No doubt, he’ll want to put on a show in front of his former teammates and fans from the valley. SAFC will also look to continue the ride that young Alex Bruce has them on. After putting two in the net at Vegas that didn’t count, the nineteen-year-old finally made one count last weekend at Toyota Field. What a thrill it was to see him get his first professional goal in his first start. Especially if Guzman and Presley stay on the injury list for an extended time period, Bruce could very much be the man. So far, he’s risen to the occasion at every level he’s played in, and USL looks no different thus far.
Another star from last week was Omar Gordon. Appearing for the first time since March, he was a man loaded with energy and seemed to be everywhere against Fresno, taking care of a lot of little things. He was particularly impressive late-on while SAFC was trying to see out the match, running like a man who had just come on to the pitch, as opposed to one who was in the 85th minute of his first match in over a month. More impressive displays like that and it will be very difficult for Powell to keep Gordon sidelined.
Defensively, it continues to be the Diego Restrepo show. He made another highlight reel save late in the game against Fresno last week. Just another outing for the defending USL GK of the year who has now kept opponents to one goal or less in six out of eight matches in 2018. And he’s still doing it without the guys we thought we’d see in the middle of that defense, as neither McCarthy nor Hedrick has featured at all this season and Christian hasn’t been seen since April 7th. It’s a testament to the other new additions on the field, Ryan Felix, and Darnell King. Felix has quietly put together a fine run of games and King has shown his ability to get forward and help the attack, picking up his third assist of the season last week. And after an assist two weeks in a row, remarkably, he’s your team assist leader for SAFC after eight matches. Hats off indeed.
Despite the fact that RGV has played pretty well at home so far this season, we know SAFC will not be intimidated going up against a team they are very familiar with. Aldo Quintanilla and Todd Wharton lead the attack for the Toros, but eight different players have scored for them in 2018, so there will be a lot to focus on defensively. And they are very efficient, tied for third in USL West in conversion rate at 17%. But defensively they are vulnerable. They have given up multiple goals in 5 of 8 games, including two matches where they gave up 3 goals. However, they have two straight shuts out home. No doubt, they’ll want to make it three in a row against their Texas rivals.
These are important games for SAFC. RGV is one of only two teams they play three times this season and it will be important for SAFC to come out on top in this season series if they are going to reach the sights they have set for the season. The first Texas test comes this Saturday. We think SAFC will be up for the task. San Antonio keeps it rolling, both in 2018 and against RGV. And we’ll peg Escalante for a dramatic winner.
San Antonio FC – 2
RGV FC – 0
SAFC “Did You Know?”
SAFC Forward Cesar Elizondo recorded five shots on goal against RGV last September; the most ever by one SAFC player in a single match. It wasn’t enough as RGV came away with the 1-0 victory.